Monday, August 27, 2007

Dude, You're Not Gonna Get a Dell!

file this one under, "Customer Service Matters".

So the college kid in my house decided that she wasn't going to lug the desktop PC and all of its peripherals back to Northwestern this year. The Cunningham Scholarship Fund met and determined that it was willing to pony up half the cost of a laptop, with the provisions that lost, stolen or busted laptops are not replaceable except through outlay of said college kid's own money.

We had been poking around Dell kiosks for a while. I've been a Dell guy with laptops for a while, having bought an Inspiron about 8 years ago and it is still ticking (granted, rather slowly -- but it will boot and eventually get around to launching a program). I've also been through most of the D series of Latitude laptops, with fairly decent results, considering this is my everyday computer at work for the past six or so years.

So I trust Dell and they have always exceeded expectations for me. Well, until now.

On July 24, we configured and ordered an Inspiron 1520 in "Ruby Red". The estimated shipping date was August 10 and my comment to my daughter was that it would probably be at the house before August 3rd, "because they always pad the shipping date". Um, not in this case. On August 10, the ship date was moved to August 17. No big deal. she starts school in September, so probably a good thing that we ordered when we did... guess the Fall rush on laptops is on. On August 17, the ship date moved to August 31 -- and I had to call Dell or they would cancel the order "due to FTC regulations". So I called. a very nice lady (who is likely dealing with lots of irate customers) told me almost nothing about why the order was delayed and couldn't even promise that the ship date wouldn't move again.

I started doing some research and found Dell's blog which finally owned up to the problems last Friday. I also found this link where it seems that there are a whole lot of people really cheesed off.

It seems that Dell has had a paint and supply chain problem, but was still marketing the heck out of their laptops. So not only did that cause a backlog in orders, but it also caused a build capacity problem. In addition, rumor has it that Dell's new deal with Wal Mart has likely chewed up a fair amount of build capacity. As anyone who has ever dealt with Wal Mart knows, you don't underdeliver to them if you ever want shelf space in the future. so it may well be one of those "perfect storm" moments that really tests a company -- huge demand from normal sales channels and a new goliath channel (Wal Mart), unforecasted demand, supply chain shortages, and production problems.

So with the ship date now said to be Friday, I'm in a position that says if I don't have a tracking number on Saturday, the college kid and I will be at the Sony store at Woodfield Saturday morning picking up a Vaio CR Series in Sangria red. I've seen several in stock at Office depot and Best Buy, so I know that Sony is not having paint problems.

I guess what bugs me is that it has taken this long for the company to even begin to admit that they have a major problem on their hands. And when people have called Dell, they have been told lies (from what has been reported). Customer service is about remembering who is the customer and what role the customer has to play. Dell has historically done fairly well at that job, but it seems that the race for the bottom of price is causing yet another good company to abandon their heritage.

I really hope we get that laptop, but if they don't ship, they will have lost another customer.

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